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Blog/Opinion: Where To Find Inspiration

I’ve never been remiss about sharing with other gardeners that some concepts seen in my garden haven’t been my original designs. To the contrary, several years ago when Chris Woods (Ex-Director of Chanticleer) was teaching me about garden design and perennials, visitors to my garden would frequently comment on how my style of gardening reminded them of Chanticleer. Well, we both did have Robinia pseudocacia "frisia." But the truth is…Chris influenced my plant palette and combinations tremendously. At that time, Chanticleer was a nascent public garden, so I was able to pick up ideas easily. I never gave a second thought as to whether or not I was copying any. The only thing I knew was that I was inspired.


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Draping Plants at Chanticleer. Photo Credit: Jonathan Wright


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On my last visit to Chanticleer this past May, after I spent quite a bit of time in the overwhelmingly beautiful Tea Cup Garden taking photos, some wooden boxes on top of the entryway caught my eye. I grabbed Jonathan Wright (who creates and maintains the garden) and asked him what he was doing with the boxes. It was simple, he said; he filled them with veggies, including some beans, with the intent of creating a jeweled, draping effect on the wall of the front courtyard/entryway. The more he talked about designing these veggie-filled boxes, the more I fell in love with the idea. When he mentioned the yellow beans that were going to drip over the sides that he had found at Territorial Seed Company, I knew I had to get my hands on some.


Chanticleer_hanging_plants_backChanticleer Wooden Boxes. Photo Credit: Jonathan Wright


When I got back to Israel, still in the midst of trying to get a "first layer" of my new rooftop planted up, it hit me that window boxes on the ledge behind the seating area would be perfect. I decided that terra cotta or ceramic boxes wouldn’t do. They had to be wooden ones. Meanwhile, knowing that my father was coming to Israel in less than 3 weeks, I got online and ordered seeds from Territorial Seed Company; 2 packets of Pole Beans, “Goldmarie” and ‘”Golden Sunshine.


I was lucky to find some wooden boxes at one of my local nurseries. Because I needed plants that would mature quickly, before the scorching weather arrived, I used coleus, cabbages, orange zinnias, marigolds and the yellow/chartreuse sweet potato vine as my base. I was able to add the yellow Pole Bean seeds to the mix in mid-June. They are just beginning to take off.



Wooden Planters Above Entryway at Chanticleer. Photo Credit: Jonathan Wright

I have dozens of containers to water early each morning. Because my rooftop is a small garden, unlike what I used to have, I have the luxury of being able to take the time to look at each plant as I soak it — marveling at its growth, concerned if it doesn’t look healthy, or noticing how it looks companioned with another container.

But nothing gives me more pleasure than winding my way behind the seating area and watering each window box. I don’t quite know why, but there’s something about lifting the lower leaves nestled on top of the soil and cupping them in my hands as I make sure that the water is soaking into the soil that gives me immense pleasure. Go figure.



Close Up of Fran's Planter. Photo Credit: Fran Sorin


Already the coleus have become too top heavy; they need to be cut back. Although I want the vines to be draping on the interior wall of the garden, my focus is on creating a feast for the eyes as people walk down this narrow urban street. I want them to see a festival of colors on top of the ledge…and smile.


So, I have Jonathan to thank for helping me create a design element in my garden that I probably would never had thought of. Do I think that my window box plantings will look like Jonathan’s when mature? Not at all. But what’s important is that I was inspired by someone else’s work and felt free to bring that element into my garden. The scope of the "borrowed" design doesn’t matter; it is the pleasure that it gives you that does!



Fran's Planters from Below. Photo Credit: Fran Sorin


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Where To Find Inspiration:  Created on August 7th, 2011.  Last Modified on December 26th, 2011

About Fran Sorin

Fran Sorin

Fran Sorin is a recognized gardening expert, ecologist, author, broadcaster, and journalist. Her book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, now considered a classic, was groundbreaking when published as no one had written about gardening in the context of creativity, spirituality, and transformation.

Fran’s faith in the healing power of nature informs all of her work. She believes that each of us benefits from being surrounded by the beauty and therapeutic effect of nature – at home, work, and in the city or town where we live. To facilitate the ability for city dwellers to interact with nature, she focuses on ecological landscape design, vertical green walls, green roof gardening, urban gardening, and sustainable urban agriculture.


Fran is the CBS Radio News Garden Contributor – her gardening features are heard several times a week on CBS Radio stations throughout the country. She has been a Regular Contributor on The Today Show and made appearances on Live with Regis and Kelly, CNN, HGTV, Discovery, DIY, Comcast, and NBC10 in Philadelphia. She has been the GardenSmart Contributor for USA Weekend Magazine, a Contributing Editor for Radius Magazine, and was instrumental in developing the iVillage Garden Channel.

Learn more about Fran and read dozens of articles she has written on her website, and at her group gardening blog:




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